Designing the new Opendata platform for the NHS Scotland

Redesigning the User Experience of the NHS Opendata platform.
UX Design

The design challenge

Redesign the NHS Opendata platform that contains all kinds of medical data provided by the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland. The platform has to fit all the four different target groups and has to provide reliable information. The goal is to develop digital inclusive interfaces for the NHS.

The solution

A redesign of the current Opendata platform of the NHS taking into account all the four different target groups. The new platform can be used as a reliable source of information for everyone interested in medial data. Next to providing data, the new platform also offers a wide range of articles based on the medical data.

About this project

In 2019, I followed the minor User Experience Design at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. At the end of this 6-month minor I worked together with Wallscope, a software development company in Edinburgh, Scotland, for 7 weeks to redesign the Opendata platform of the National Health Service (NHS) Scotland. NHS researched the customer engagement with the existing platform and found out it was in big need of improvement. To me the task to design the user experience of this new platform.

At the start of the project, I was handed a customer engagement report provided by the NHS that described four different target groups, their goals, and the problems they’re experiencing with the current platform.

The four different target groups are:

The Curious
The Curious are people who might not know exactly what they want when they come to the content. They can be drawn in and can learn a lot of things that will be useful for them. They will be drawn in through other sources and will go as deep as they like. Better known as the general public. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a doctor or medical student, but anyone with interest in the medial world.

The Focused
The Focused are people who know exactly what they want. They want to look at a particular set of metrics, or a particular location or group of locations, targets or specific conditions. They will go directly to what they want and they explore from there. Types of customers interested in this: Public, Social Care, Policy Officers, Nurses, Researchers, Health and Social Care Managers or Quality Improvement.

The Detailled
The Detailed are people who want to find out more about the data. They like to understand all the background or metadata so they can understand what is going on. They will go straight to what they want and get the details behind the data. Types of customers interested in this: Public, Parliamentary or Academic Researchers, Data Analysts or Clinicians.

The Diggers
The Diggers are people who use data all the time. They are skilled in the modern methods of data access and want to get as much access as possible. They will mostly just want the data but might also want the context of that data too. Types of customers interested in this: Public, third sector, local data analysts, commercial and academic.

So the challenge of this project was to design a platform that would fit the needs of all these four target groups.

Co-creation session with the stakeholders

After digging through the customer engagement report I wanted to validate it with the actual stakeholders to see if there are more requirements I had to take into account for the new platform. Also, Wallscope, the company I worked with during the project, took the initiative to organize a co-creation session / design sprint with the NHS and people from the target groups. Two weeks after the start of the project I took a plane to Scotland to meet up with them. The days in Scotland were very productive and I left with a solid first version of an idea I could work on for the remaining time of the project.

First user test

After I got back to The Netherlands I started working on further designing the new idea for the Opendata platform. The next week I planned a user test with a nurse to see if she understood the new design. During this test, I came to a very useful insight:

“I get the point why people would be interested in medical data. But personally, I would not really use a platform like this. Unless the platform is providing more context about the data. Like for example stories based on the data.”

- the nurse

This insight made me realize that I somewhere during the design process missed the fact that by just providing cold, hard data a lot of potential users would be forgotten. So after the test, I went back to the drawing board to improve the design. The goal for this iteration was to make the new platform even more attractive for one of our target groups, the curious. The curious target group, or the general public, are the people that are interested in the medical world. They don’t necessarily need to be doctors or medical students, but anyone with interest in the medical world. My goal was to improve the platform to make it more attractive and useful to use for them. I decided that, next to giving the user access to all the datasets, I also wanted to provide them stories and articles based on that data. In this way, the platform could give them a bit more context of a dataset. And because the curious target group could be anyone you can imagine, I also wanted to think about accessibility. I realized that by just providing a screen-based interface, a big amount of potential users might still not be able to use the platform. Say, for example, you’re blind. Can you use a screen-based interface in the same way that the majority of the people use it? Probably not. That’s why I came up with the idea to design a voice-based user interface in addition to the newly designed platform. In this way, the user can ask the platform questions with their voice after which the search engine uses a technique called Natural Language Processing and Speech-to-Text to provide the user with the information they need.

That decision turned out to be a good one. Because during the second user test the next week, the feedback I got was very positive. The people who tested the concept liked the fact that they could read articles about the datasets and also understood the reason behind the decision to add a voice user interface to the concept. Of course, there still were some small things that could be improved, but that’s exactly why I was testing the prototype: to make it better for the user.

After the second user test, I still had a couple of days left before the final presentation to do some fine-tuning for the prototype. I processed the results of the user test in the design after which my teammate finished it up with some beautiful animations and micro-interactions. The concept was now finished.

The final concept in screen flows

Below the screen flows of the final concept to show you what is possible with the new NHS Open Data platform. Each screen flow demonstrates a different use case.

Casual browsing for articles

The new NHS Opendata platform offers the user reliable sources of information by combining datasets and articles. The user can "casually" browse for articles starting at the home page. At the home page, a couple of trendy articles are displayed. If the user wants to browse all the articles, he can click on the "view more" button to browse all the available articles. When reading an article, all parts related to a dataset are highlighted so that the user can easily visit the source (the dataset) related to the statements made in an article.

Casual browsing for a dataset

On the existing platform, the NHS organizes datasets in different categories and sub-categories. With casual browsing applied in our concept, the user can easily browse for datasets in those categories.

Plotting a dataset on the map

Some datasets are based on geographical data. With the new NHS Opendata platform, the user can plot datasets on a map. For example, in the screen flow below, the flow of plotting the "General Practitioners Contact Details" dataset on the map is displayed. this dataset contains the contact details of all GP's in Scotland and their location (hospital etc.)

Term based search

The new platform contains a powerful search engine. This gives the user the ability to search for articles and datasets using search terms.

Natural Language Processing search

In addition to term-based search, the NHS wanted to include Natural Language Processing as a way of searching for content. With the new platform, the user can naturally type questions. Say, for example, you want to know how many general practitioners there are in Edinburgh. You can either type "How many GP's does Edinburgh have?" or you can click on the microphone to start interacting with the voice-based interface. Using a voice interface, I was able to make the platform available for people less able to use a screen-based interface. Since the target group of this project was so wide, taking accessibility into account was very important.

What's next?

The final concept is a platform that is easy to use and provides many ways to explore both data and articles that are provided by the NHS. The user can use both the textual term based search or use the integrated voice assistant interface to enter search queries. Besides the search, the user can go to articles directly or use the category view to go where they please. Should they feel the need to see a visual representation on say, a map, the user can click on the map and load geodata. After searching the user can select the option to view either articles or data. Looking back at all the work I can easily say: implement this. However, it is not as easy as it looks. I discovered several different problems when reflecting on the work I have done. First and foremost, it should be made clear that this solution is useable and clear to understand for all the archetypes. However, more testing should be done to ensure its feasibility.

Thanks to the very good and professional collaboration with Wallscope and the NHS, we were able to design a solution that is proven to be working. I would like to say thank you to everyone involved in the project because I had a good, fun, and educational time from the beginning to the end.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about my time working together with Wallscope and the NHS, read my blog I wrote for the Wallscope website.

Read my blog